With many parents facing the challenge of homeschooling during coronavirus isolation, educational games for kids can be very helpful. Especially if you are working from home and don’t have a lot of time available for more traditional teaching methods.
The truth is that parents need easy solutions while working from home, trying to juggle conference calls and keeping their kids busy. After all, equipping your child with a tablet and a few selected quality apps is much better than streaming a constant flow of random cartoons on YouTube.
We don’t suggest replacing your school’s assigned tasks, but educational games can be a great supplement. Many schools have already embraced gamified educational platforms, such as Lexia and Mathletics.
We think it’s really crucial that children enjoy learning and are allowed to have fun when they are first beginning to grasp the basics as young students. Game-based education works well for today’s digital-first kids, but for parents who didn’t learn in this way, it feels unnatural at first. When our kids first started to try out educational games, we also began to recognise their effectiveness which won us over.
Browsing the Play Store (Android) or App Store (Apple) for high-quality and affordable educational games can be a daunting experience. There are thousands of apps available of all kinds; some are free and some paid.
We usually look at these five criteria before deciding which apps to download for our kids’ tablets:
- Value for money: Ideally, the app should be free, but we don’t mind paying if the game is a particularly good match. We also expect apps with a higher price-tag to provide value over a long period.
- User experience: The game’s interface should be intuitive and easy to navigate for a child.
- Fun factor: The app should be fun enough for the kids to be self-motivated when it comes to picking up their tablet and playing the game.
- Educational value: The game should be at least loosely linked with the kids’ curriculum, helping them to meet their school objectives.
- Distractions: We hate kids games cluttered with ads and offers for paid options. Luring kids into nagging trying to convince parents to purchase something is just unethical marketing.
Looking at the review score within the app stores can be helpful, but it can also be very confusing. We tend to rely more on recommendations from friends, blogs and independent reviews by newspapers and magazines rather than relying too much on ratings within the app platforms.
Our favourite educational kids games and apps
Poio by Kahoot!
Suitable for: 3-8-year-olds, practising phonetics
We first heard about Poio after it gained popularity in Scandinavia with several friends recommending it. We were quick to download the Android version when it came out in the UK, eager to test out the English version.
The game takes place on an island where you can navigate through the different levels and worlds where you can collect new letters and words that you need for the main Poio storybook. The characters are charming and well thought out: Anna, Ebbe, Poio and Otto. They eat different words, and you often have to rescue them when they get into problems. Our daughter really liked the fantasy world and thought the characters were cool. We also felt that she made progress with her phonetics, and was a great compliment to her year in reception and the first term of year 1. Poio is an expensive app, but considering the number of hours she has used the game over a whole year without getting fed up, we think it’s been worth it.
Suitable for: 3-8-year-olds, practising spellings
In Endless Wordplay, kids can practice spelling, word building, and beautiful rhymes! The app introduces key spelling patterns and phonograms to kids, which is essential for beginning spellers and early writers. Written English can be complicated, and Endless Wordplay strengthens spelling rules and variations using rhymes in a fun and engaging way.
Our daughter cherished the Alphabot as well as the Endless monsters. Each exercise strengthens a spelling and phonetic pattern using a sequence of rhyming word puzzles with letters that come alive. The rhyming words then lead to entertaining and illustrative animations that are as fun as they are educational.
Suitable for: 5-11-year-olds learning maths
Komodo is not a game per se, but still very engaging with objectives and rewards. Our daughter enjoyed the user interface, and the sessions are usually quick (15 min). After signing up, your child will do an assessment and then receive a personal email from a maths teacher with a recommended personalised learning plan. Komodo follows the National Curriculum in maths, with an emphasis on numeracy. There are also videos to help children and their parents to understand the system quickly, and even a message system so the parent can get updates and encourage their child when making progress.
We enjoyed the free 14 days trial of Komodo Math and will be using it as a compliment to Mathletics, which is the platform that our school offers.
Suitable for: 4-16-year-olds learning maths
Our daughter spends around 20 min per day on the Mathletics platform doing assigned exercises from her school as well as additional activities. Even if not structured as a game, we have found the platform to be engaging with lots of tutorials and explanations if getting stuck on a particular task. The user interface also is easy to navigate, which means our daughter can manage a lot on her own.
After solving the mandatory types of exercises, students get access to a play area where they can compete against other children around the world. Children also have access to the Rainforest Maths section with its own set of interactive activities (more than 800) for each of the grades K-6. Designed to appeal to young students, it’s bright, colourful, and interactive.
Toca Lab: Elements!
Suitable for: 6-8-year-olds learning science
Our kids have grown addicted to several of the Toca Boca kids games, some more educational than others! Playing Toca Lab: Elements!, children get to explore the colourful and electrifying world of science meeting all of the 118 elements from the periodic table.
Examples of experiements:
- Take your element for a spin in the centrifuge.
- Warm them up in the Bunsen burner.
- Put the element on ice with the cooling agent!
- Add a drop or two of mysterious liquids from the test tubes.
- Change their voltage and make them magnetic with the oscilloscope.
The more kids experiment, the more elements they can choose from as they appear on the periodic table. (There’s a complete periodic table of elements with the elements’ Toca-inspired characters, symbols, and real scientific names on the Toca Boca blog). We enjoyed Toca Lab because it enables children to play around with chemistry with no safety goggles or complex equations required at this early, free-play stage.
Suitable for: 5+ years-olds learning coding
- Master coding by playing puzzles and games
- Do block coding to create games, math art, apps, and more
- Control loops, conditional statements, functions, and subroutines to find treasure
- Learn sequencing and pattern recognition while collecting candy
- Switch between block coding and Swift
- Learn to program AR, games, and apps
- Over 200 starter tutorials included